In the Supreme Court case of Shelby County v. Holder, Alabama is arguing to be released from the oversight requirements of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
I’m no lawyer myself, and I don’t know all the ins and outs of Constitutional law along with associated fancy-shmancy Latin terms and whatnot. However, I do know that Alabama, and the rest of the South, is different in many ways from the way it was in 1965.
For one thing, I’ve lived in the Birmingham, Alabama area all my life, and if Birmingham has had a white mayor in my lifetime, I don’t remember it. (Aaand after a little Googling, here he is: Birmingham’s last white mayor, whose term ended in 1979. I was less into politics and more into eating bologna straight out of the package at the time.)
If black politicians can dominate the politics of a state’s largest city for three decades, one might think that is evidence that the federal government no longer needs to oversee elections in that state to give black politicians a fair shake. But if one thought that, that would mean that one had never encountered a liberal Supreme Court justice.
There is no one, Justice Ginsburg said, “who doesn’t admit that huge progress has been made.” The reason for keeping only the South answerable to federal lawyers, the liberal justices made clear, is that racial discrimination in these states might recur. Justice Breyer analogized the phenomenon of racism in the American South to a plant disease:
“Imagine a state has a plant disease, and in 1965 you can recognize the presence of that disease. . . . Now it’s evolved. . . . But we know one thing: The disease is still there in the state.”
If I’m a 40-year-old southerner, born in 1973 and raising a family in one of these states, this view by four justices on the Supreme Court in 2013 of what I might do is insulting and demeaning.
The liberal justices’ remarks explain Solicitor General Verrilli’s conflicted response to Chief Justice Roberts. He isn’t saying the South is more racist than the North, but he doesn’t know if it is. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But we can’t trust them, so they must answer to Washington.
That times change and society can adapt to those changes for the better is an admired habit of the United States. But in the matter at the center of Section 5 of the Voting Rights act—racism—some segments of American liberalism won’t let it go. In this liberal reading, there can be no forgiveness. Only the possibility of legal retribution. Forever.
Here again we see the great gap in liberal thinking; the giant blank space that exists where logic should be.
Because liberal legal thinkers are big on the “living” “evolving” nature of the Constitution. It’s meaning grows and changes with the times, to accommodate our changing culture.
But according to the liberal justices in this case, there is no such thing as cultural change in the American South. Nope, a Southerner born in 1982 is just exactly the same in opinions and mores as a Southerner born in 1942. They have never changed, and never will.
So, the Constitution evolves, but people never do? If it’s not changes in the attitudes of people that drive the “evolution” of the Constitution, then what is it? The Constitution is apparently an actual sentient being all on its own, one that drinks fair trade coffee and subscribes to The New Yorker and never, ever listens to talk radio.
Or maybe it’s that the South exists under some kind of airtight dome that keeps out the rainbow lollypop radiation that drives all other Americans to ever-greater heights of morality and consciousness. Perhaps overdoses of Hee-Haw have permanently stunted our DNA, preventing us from ever properly understanding Marxist-Lesbian legal theory, and requiring the ever watchful eye of properly-educated federal supervisors.
Or is it just that Constitutional “evolution” is really just the will of a select few being imposed on everybody else, disguised as the rule of law? I know that sounds crazy but I can’t help it. I’ve been exposed to way too much Hee-Haw.